THE BLOG
02/25/2014 04:10 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2014

Health IT: Empowering Patients and Physicians

If you glance around a typical doctor's waiting area, you'll undoubtedly see patients looking down at their smartphones, sending texts, playing games, listening to music or reading the latest news. Once you enter the service areas, you may see physicians and nurses using tablets or laptops to enter the latest information in your electronic health record (EHR) and quickly scan your recent history. After your encounter, your doctor may write an e-prescription or email you follow-up instructions.

Those are just a few of the ways that health-related information technology (health IT) is empowering patients and physicians. Tomorrow, physicians, hospitals, researchers and patient advocates will learn about the latest advances in health IT at HIMSS14, the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in Orlando on February 23-27.

As a passionate advocate for health IT -- and a HIMSS board member -- I'm looking forward to attending this leading-edge industry event, which will cover great topics like mobile health applications and patient engagement solutions.

Why is health IT so important? I believe innovative and effective technology solutions can address the two biggest challenges facing our disjointed healthcare system: managing costs more effectively while improving the quality of care. For example, cumbersome paper-based patient charts are steadily being replaced by electronic health records (EHRs), making it much easier for physicians to access the information they need to make good diagnostic and treatment decisions. Robust EHR solutions also empower patients so they can become partners in their own care.

But the EHR is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential of health IT. We also need "interoperability" -- the seamless integration of electronic records and provider networks -- in order to deliver truly seamless, coordinated patient care. Telehealth and telemedicine is another field where health IT allows us to extend the reach of physicians, hospitals and other providers into underserved communities.

Of course, health IT also encompasses new strategies for providers and patients to connect via digital, social and mobile communication channels -- in the office, at home or from a hotel room when traveling. As you can tell, I'm excited by all the untapped potential of health IT, and I'm looking forward to taking the next steps on this amazing journey!

For more by Geeta Nayyar, M.D., click here.

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